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Packed house hear discussion on Gastineau construction

Posted: September 12, 2012 - 12:02am

Nearly every seat was filled at a pair of meetings Tuesday afternoon at school libraries as Juneau School District officials and the director of Juneau’s Engineering Department discussed the state of construction at Gastineau Community School, where renovation work is running well behind schedule.

About 30 people, mostly parents, filled Gastineau’s library for a special meeting of the Gastineau site council, where Engineering Director Rorie Watt and JSD Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich addressed the delay.

“It’s no secret that this project hasn’t gone well and has to be considered one of our worst, and no one’s proud of that,” Watt said. Referring to delays in some classrooms reopening after last summer’s construction work, he added, “I think having problems two years in a row makes it particularly dissatisfying.”

Gelbrich expressed “unilateral displeasure with the progress of this project,” remarking, “I don’t think the schedule of this project has met anyone’s expectations.”

Gelbrich praised the efforts of Gastineau staff and parents in responding to the situation.

“I just can’t imagine, if we didn’t have the staff we have here, if we didn’t have the community we have here, what we’d be looking at,” said Gelbrich, who singled out first-year Principal Brenda Edwards for particular praise. “There’s one heroic tale after another of how much people have done to try to maintain some kind of normalcy.”

Watt had addressed the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee Monday afternoon, describing difficulties in working with project contractor ASRC McGraw Constructors. He reiterated many of the city’s complaints Tuesday, including a dispute with ASRC McGraw over who is responsible for how much of the delay.

“We have a disagreement with the contractor about how much extra time they are reasonably due contractually,” said Watt. “I think we have a pretty serious disagreement about that time.”

Ty Hardt, communications director for Arctic Slope Regional Corp., which owns ASRC McGraw, provided a list to the Juneau Empire Tuesday of problems he said the contractor encountered during its work at Gastineau this summer.

Hardt’s list included an 11-day delay to which he said the contractor alerted the CBJ in June over unexpected asbestos abatement in the library and boiler room, a five-day delay in July due to “structural steel issues” and change orders, a delay ­— including a two-week delay on structural steel [filtered word] — due to a CBJ-ordered exterior work stoppage from June 27 to July 18 after the discovery of buried gravesites outside the school’s main entrance, and unforeseen problems with floor slabs in the library and gymnasium that he said caused significant delays as well.

“AMCL did not receive direction on the gym floor repairs until (Aug. 17, 2012,) when CBJ issued AMCL a time and material change order to make the necessary slab repairs. This was over 2 weeks after CBJ was notified, and only 3 days before school started,” Hardt wrote in an email.

Watt, who said after the site council meeting Tuesday evening that he has not had any communications with Hardt, dismissed the idea that the setbacks Hardt described in his email are responsible for the entire projected delay of about 45 days this year.

“Each one of those have a story, if you will,” said Watt. “Just because something changes doesn’t mean the whole project delays.”

Watt said at the site council meeting that the city’s position is that ASRC McGraw did not staff the project well enough in its early weeks.

“If they had staffed up harder earlier, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Watt asserted.

Several attendees of the site council meeting expressed concern about a number of things they identified as hazards or nuisances at the school, including a large puddle near the area students line up, broken glass in a classroom window, assorted metal debris on the playground, heavy equipment operating during RALLY, the lack of a crosswalk near the side entrance while the main entrance remains closed, and the lack of dedicated space for lunch and physical education.

Watt said the school’s renovated RALLY room could open by the end of the week, with the gymnasium opening about Sept. 24 and the commons area and main entrance slated to open by the end of the month.

But Watt added, “I think the gym will be done (soon). The commons — I wouldn’t promise it.”

According to Hardt, ASRC McGraw is working after-hours and on weekends to complete the project. He also wrote, “It’s important to note that we share in the mutual goal of wanting this project to be completed safely and professionally, and value the relationship with CBJ.”

The Gastineau issue was also discussed at Tuesday evening’s JSD Board of Education meeting at Juneau-Douglas High School.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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